A YouTube video showing the general overseer of the Living Faith Church (aka Winners Chapel), David Oyedepo, smack an unyielding female church member during a deliverance service has sparked social media outrage in Nigeria and around the world.
The video became an internet sensation on Saturday after it was posted on Youtube, drawing widespread condemnation of the pastor’s action, which many see as gender or child abuse.
It has the pastor, affectionately called “Papa” by members of his church, slapping a lady kneeling before him. Apparent from the video, the lady refused to admit she was a witch after several prods by the pastor.
The lady rather insisted she was a “witch for Jesus” a claim that apparently angered the pastor.
Mr Oyedepo then hit her hard on the left cheek, yelling, “Do you know who you are talking to?”
The congregation cheered but the courageous girl insisted she wasn’t a witch. The disappointed pastor dismissed the lady, saying she had no place in heaven.
Brutal methods of exorcising children and women are common place among Christian preachers and traditional healers in Nigeria.
Most times, the victims are intimidated into admitting membership of evil cults before they are subjected to different forms of cruel exorcisms.
The recent case – in Akwa Ibom State – where children were branded witches and then abused, sometimes killed – received global condemnation forcing government to ban such practices.
Many Nigerians who have seen the video took to their social media communities to condemn the pastor’s action while hailing the lady for maintaining her stance in the face of such brutality.
The condemnation, commentators say, is not just for the pastor’s spiritual tactics but also a denunciation of violence against women.
Human rights activists have labelled the pastor’s action “religious bullying,” “violence against women” and “child abuse.”
“That was assault! Nothing less,” Irina Aduke-Ife Patrick said. “…another glaring case of violence against women and child abuse.”
“I really need to find the girl in the Oyedepo child abuse video,” Modupe Ariyo, a Nigerian women and child rights activist said. “Aside supporting her, I want to commend her for standing up to the religious bullying.”
“Should the anointed enjoy the liberty to violently touch the non-anointed in the name of superstition?” Pius Adesanmi, a newspaper columnist asked.
“This catch-a-witch nonsense is getting out of hand,” he added. “We really need to do something about these prosperity pastors in Nigeria. Maybe make enough noise and draw the attention of local and international human rights groups to Pastor Oyedepo’s action? If he sells one of his private jets fighting a big backlash, he will think twice before slapping innocent little girls. Nonsense!”
Mr Oyedepo could not be reached for comments, as calls to a telephone number listed on his website were unanswered.
The clergyman is however not new to controversies. He is one of Nigeria’s richest pastors and was heavily criticised after he bought a N4.4 billion private jet in March this year.
In July, he reportedly ordered D’Banj, Nigeria’s popular afro-pop musician, to pull off all the elaborate jewelry dangling from his neck in the middle of a performance at a youth program in Covenant University, where the pastor was also a guest.